Forty years after Quebec adopted its historic and contentious Bill 101 to preserve and strengthen the presence of the French language, some activists and politicians want the law to have more teeth.
“It’s necessary to come back to the original provisions of Bill 101,” said Martine Ouellet, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, during a rally Saturday.
The gathering at Parc Camille-Laurin, named after the Parti Québécois MNA and architect of Bill 101, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the landmark legislation.
The Charter of the French Language paved the way for the francization of Quebec businesses, workplaces, government and education system. It put restrictions (with very few exceptions), which are still intact today, on who is permitted to study in English.
While the law has changed and continues to shape the linguistic and cultural identity of the province, some say new measures are needed to ensure that French survives.
“We have to expand the scope [of Bill 101], particularly when it comes to work and to ensure that new immigrants to Quebec have access to French classes,” said Ouellet.
The rally drew about 150 attendees, including prominent politicians, union leaders and groups dedicated to defending the French language — and anglophones like Jennifer Drouin.
Drouin, the president of the non-profit organization Anglophones for Quebec Independence, said that Bill 101 is a necessary measure to ensure the survival of the French language and that there is still work that needs to be done.
“There’s 50 per cent of francophones now in Montreal and it’s very difficult to be served in French in Montreal,” said Drouin.
During the gathering, PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée took the opportunity to mention his proposal about Bill 202, a play on the current Charter of the French Language.
Under the law, individuals who plan on moving to Quebec would have to pass a French exam before arriving here.
“Countries like Great Britain ask for that,” said Lisée. “Holland asks for that and their language isn’t in peril likes ours.”